RESENDE, Brazil –
Expanding on their close ties dating back to World War II, soldiers from the U.S. and Brazilian armies stood next to each other with a new sense of brotherhood during the closing ceremony of Southern Vanguard 22 held Dec. 16, 2021, at the Agulhas Negras Military Academy.
“This is a historic exercise for both nations,” said Gen. Tomás Miguel Miné Ribeiro Paiva, the commanding general of the Southeast Military Command in São Paulo, Brazil. “The Brazilian army has a storied history working alongside the Americans during WWII and we are proud to strengthen our ties by conducting Southern Vanguard 22. This historical partnership stems from us sharing a commitment to democracy.”
Southern Vanguard is an annual training exercise designed to increase interoperability between the United States and its South American partners. During this iteration of Southern Vanguard, the training involved more than 1,000 Soldiers from U.S. Army South, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Brazil’s 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry Brigade (Air Assault), 2nd Division, culminating in bilateral air assault operations.
“The 101st has committed significant assets to make Southern Vanguard 22 happen,” said Col. Chip Karels, the training and exercise chief for U.S. Army South. “The Rakkasans have done an outstanding job of being ready to make this a highly successful mission. Their level of professionalism throughout this whole exercise has made for a highly cohesive training environment for everyone involved.”
The armies enhanced their interoperability by conducting weapons familiarization, air assault operations and tactical training to include setting up defensive fighting positions, tactical casualty care and medical evacuation, live fires, and urban combat operations. Additionally, they conducted cold-load training and helicopter familiarization.
“It’s very important that we train with U.S. soldiers because we are all fighting to defend our freedom,” said Maj. Itacimar Brasil, a helicopter pilot with 1st Battalion. “Working together helps us all increase the lethality of our forces and build upon trust.”
Karels highlighted the exercise as a key enabler to prepare U.S. Army South in its mission to support and quickly respond to any U.S. Southern Command contingency in the Western Hemisphere.
“The opportunity for the U.S. to be interoperable with such a significant partner as Brazil gives us both the ability to deter threats and provide assurance within the region,” Karels said.
Southern Vanguard allowed both armies to share operational and tactical expertise so they are better prepared to respond rapidly to crises in the region. More importantly, the exercise was a showcase of the strong relationship and professional partnership between the forces taking part during the event.
“I personally benefited greatly from this training opportunity and I know that many of my Soldiers learned valuable lessons too,” said Sgt. Victor Rodrigues, an observer controller and trainer for the Brazilian army, with the 5th Battalion. “Something I will always remember was the brotherhood that we felt when working with the American Soldiers, it felt like family, we relied on each other when we needed help, and that’s what families do.”
First. Lt. Bear Hatfield, Bulldog Company, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team executive officer, shared the same sentiment.
“Southern Vanguard 22 has been a phenomenal opportunity for the Rakkasans to hone their fighting capabilities alongside the Brazilian forces,” Hatfield said. “The Brazilian soldiers are extremely professional. They have extensive knowledge of operating in jungle and mountain environments; so their expertise directly built our Soldiers’ abilities to navigate successfully in unfamiliar terrain.”
According to Karels, Southern Vanguard 22 required an extensive planning process in order to ensure its success. He mentioned U.S. Army South began planning the exercise in 2019 in an effort to maximize the effectiveness of the training.
“Conducting Southern Vanguard 22 is no small task, in order to be successful, you have to be very intentional in the planning process,” Karels said. “I have to give a lot of credit to the Brazilian Army for the effort they’ve put into making this happen, they are a major world player and our relationship with them is critical."
U.S. Army South aims to continue building upon its relationship and interoperability with its South American partners through 2028. For the Rakkasans, the experience they had in Brazil strengthened and forged their friendship with their Brazilian counterparts.
“Hosting Southern Vanguard 22 in Brazil is historically significant as this is the first time the U.S. has held a major training event with Brazil since World War II,” said Maj. Geoffrey Edmunds, task force deputy commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “It’s one thing to say that Brazil is a partner of the U.S., but actually going out and completing this training alongside Brazil’s Army, is a real testament to our commitment to supporting each other.”